Attendance at school is more than being physically present — it is about being fully engaged in learning.
Engaged students enjoy going to school and have positive feelings about the future. They also have a greater sense of belonging to their school, which leads to increased learning.
To keep students in school and regularly attending, children and youth need emotional, intellectual, physical and social supports. Schools, parents or guardians, and students share a responsibility for attendance and involvement in learning. The people closest to the student can often best identify strengths and needs, understand the local context and access local resources to help the student.
Schools can use the following five strategies to help ensure that students are engaged in learning and regularly attending school. These strategies also assist schools identify an attendance issue and provide a starting point for intervention.
Early identification of a school attendance issue is possible with detailed attendance monitoring. As part of this strategy, it is important for school administrators and staff to have a good understanding and a clear process to analyze district, school, classroom and individual student attendance patterns. With this information, students at risk of chronic absenteeism can be identified and informed decisions can be made to intervene early. Early intervention has the greatest positive impact for the student.
Creating a school culture that engages students and increases attendance includes addressing social (participation in school life), academic (participation in the requirements for school success) and intellectual engagement (psychological and cognitive investment in learning). For each type of engagement, there are proactive strategies and interventions that can support regular attendance.
Transitions occur any time in a person's life that involve change — whether it be routines, relationships, expectations or roles. Transitions occur throughout the life cycle, including during the school years. In order for transitions to be successful, they must be carefully and deliberately supported and planned. Students with attendance problems may face a variety of challenges as they make transitions into new settings, including from grade to grade, school to work, and school to further education. Students may also face significant transitions in their home life, such as family structure changes, a death in the family, or moving homes.
The chance that a transition will be positive is significantly increased when schools work together with the students themselves — and their parents/caregivers, employers, community agencies and post-secondary institutions to develop transition strategies.
Providing access to a variety of activities and services in a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment helps students do better in all aspects of their life. Through shared leadership and working together with community partners, students and their families will have access to supports necessary to ensure success for all. Determining the reason for absenteeism is essential for identifying barriers to attendance — food, shelter, mental/physical health, transportation or other challenges. Identifying these barriers to attendance provide schools, community partners and families with a voice and a choice in creating a plan to address the barriers and increase attendance.
In order for students to experience success, positive connections must be created and maintained between the school staff, the student and their family. Each and every student needs a connection with an adult who can provide them with unconditional support. For students at risk of chronic absenteeism, assistance from specialized personnel such as those involved in mentorship programs, career counselling, school liaison work, student engagement projects, resource offices or community agencies, provide the support the student needs to attend school and re-engage in learning.